I Do Drive Thru is a worldwide wedding startup, helping couples get hitched in the middle of Covid19 while adhering to the restrictions and saving the partying for later. Since launching in Melbourne, it’s spread nationally, and has since popped up all over the USA. Melbourne wedding celebrant Mel (who also moonlights as The Ceremony Store) runs us through why it started and how it’s helped couples all over the world.
Who are you and what do you do?
I’ve been a Marriage and Funeral Celebrant for 15 years and own the companies, The Ceremony Store, The I Do Drive Thru and The Last Time. I am also a Celebrant Trainer with Australian Celebrations Training, Furniture Maker, Writer, Mother and Wife but I have always wanted to be an Electrician.
I am obsessed with learning as much as I can in this lifetime, I am perpetually curious. I try one new task every year until I get good at it, then I move on: I have learnt lock-picking, languages, carpentry, metal-detecting, and written a book.
When COVID 19 became a part of our world I was given medical advice to isolate which meant I could no longer do weddings. The next day I gave away/rescheduled 17 weddings and it was, to say the least; devastating, not just for me, but for my couples. Not only that, I felt horribly guilty giving my weddings to other Celebrants who could possibly get COVID.
That night I lay awake thinking about how I could keep those Celebrants safe and keep working from home during COVID.
To digress, I have always been a bit obsessed with Vegas style weddings and in my early Celebrancy career, I used to ride my red postie motorbike to weddings dressed as Elvis. It just seemed pretty natural that Vegas-vibed drive thru weddings and getting couples to stay in their cars while getting married and keeping the Celebrant distanced was the answer to all of my problems.
The next morning I texted 3 of the most awesome Celes I know, said let’s start this business, and all of them said yes without hesitation and 8 days later, we had a business name, logo, website and a press release. On our launch day we had over 32 calls from the press, 10 enquiries and booked our very first wedding.
Just by chance, my co-founders Kate, Zena and Klara were the perfect combo to get everything going, and the main driver between all of us was the passion to continue working while this crisis was going on around us.
We all love what we do and while we all kind of felt like sitting around grieving for what we had lost, we forced ourselves to build something new to fit with the changed times. Our catch cry became ‘we will work that out later’ as the business moved so incredibly quickly.
I honestly believe that anyone can do anything they set their mind to, impossible isn’t in my vocabulary. Any skill can be learned, any work can be completed no matter what limits there are, so we worked 19-20 hours days for that first week and we pulled it off.
The most rewarding thing about starting the business was the instant gratification we got with the media interest, we knew that our idea was good and the public interest confirmed that.
I Do Drive Thru seemed to grow incredibly quickly. How has it felt seeing it take off, and at such scale?
My gorgeous co-founders put so much trust in me right from the get go. We organised everything via phone, zoom and email, we have only sat in the same space once since we started the business, which is pretty incredible.
On launch day, seeing Klara on the 6pm news launching our business was such an achievement and then to replicate that model in each state over and over and then in the US has been amazing!
We now have 21 Celebrants working Aus wide with us and 2 in the US.
How has I Do Drive Thru seamlessly melted into the industry as it exists currently?
Celebrants weren’t the only people affected by COVID, it’s also the photographers, venue owners, car hire companies, florists, everyone has been affected in our industry. We worked hard to create a model that could encompass as many of these suppliers in local communities as possible, so they could be involved too.
A huge benefit to our business has been that we managed to snag some of the best photographers in Australia to work with us and these artists have provided some of the most epic photos of ceremonies.
Having these professional images to share with potential couples so they can see that tiny weddings can be so intimate and beautiful and moving has been incredible, a professional picture really is worth a thousand words.
Bringing work to all types of wedding industry professionals, while they were feeling pretty down about losing their own work, has given us all the warm fuzzies.
Have there been any themes to the type stories and couples coming through I Do Drive Thru?
Our couples really range in age, we have had couple in their 20’s to couple’s in their 80’s. The similarity between them is that they really want to get married, but feel like they don’t fit into the white wedding dress/getting given away by Dad/first dance scenario. We have had couples that have stayed in their car for the ceremony, gotten out and married under trees, created convoys so family and friends can come and watch and couples have arrived via cars, helicopters, motorbikes and bicycles.
My fave couple so far is a couple where the Bride recently became paraplegic and she is still getting used to navigating new places and feels a little self-conscious.
Her Fiancé just wanted to marry her, because in his words, ‘she is the most amazing woman in the world’. When they heard about the Drive Thru and she saw that she didn’t have to get out of the car and worry about wheelchair logistics, she cried, because this was the only way she felt comfortable getting married.
How do you see both the future of weddings and your place within it?
COVID is going to be here for a while. It’s not going to magically disappear, and I honestly think this will impact the wedding industry for years.
In the short term we have the uncertainty of not knowing when we can go back to booking big celebrations and it makes planning pretty impossible.
Then when restrictions are lifted then yes, technically, we can go back to bigger celebrations, but is it a celebration if you can’t hug your Nan when you walk back down the aisle? Is it a celebration if you can’t share a shot glass or eat bread out of the same breadbasket?
The effects of social distancing will continue to live on, especially when it comes to celebrating that way that we are used to.
A surprising side-effect to this whole COVID scenario, is that suddenly eloping isn’t taboo, eloping makes you responsible, kinda like a hero, you are protecting your community by having a small wedding and that shift in thinking has been kinda rad.
People have been eloping because there isn’t the stigma attached to it anymore, heck the government practically endorsed eloping when you were only allowed to have the marrying couple and two witnesses present.
Any key advice for couples considering getting married during or after Covid19?
My advice to couples during COVID has been to follow your heart and remember that there is a huge difference between a marriage and a wedding. (Check out Will and Jac for Melbourne wedding planning).
If you wanna get married, get married, do it, commit to your lover, that’s so important, don’t let COVID stop you. There is literally no better time to love and be loved than right now, having companionship during a crisis is what will get you through it.
When people ask what you did during COVID how totally romantic is it to say that you married your honey and then shacked up in iso together? (Side note – like this Blue Mountains Elopement).
If your heart is set on a wedding that encompasses family and friends, then wait, but wait until COVID is dead and gone and we can hug again. Have a huge wedding down the track, when you can handshake and dance, but you will have to be patient.
And for those that want both, do it! Have the most romantic, sweet tiny ceremony now and make it all about each other, then have a huge wedding party later on-best of both worlds.
There’s so many polarising stances on dealing with this from a business perspective, especially when small-business in the events space is exposed to the extreme end of the risk dial. What’s your advice to businesses navigating this sustainably, while continuing to place their couples first?
Running a business during a pandemic is tough. Terms and conditions/your contract/Statement of Fees documents are everything. Mine was pretty broad but certainly never covered a killer virus!
I always say to other Celebrants be tough on paper, but soft in reality. You have to have your rules in place, but be flexible, don’t forget everyone is going through something and creating relationships, and word of mouth recommendations in this business is what it is all about.
I always rule with my heart and not my head, so I certainly don’t set the best example for other business owners, but I find if you treat people with kindness then that’s what you will get back.
What’s been a personal joy you’ve gotten through this whirlwind?
I have always gotten more out of what I do for others, than what I do for myself, so to create a business that has helped so people feel good and have a bit of purpose during COVID has probably been one of the most rewarding things I have done for a long time.
Find I Do Drive Thru online
To have your small Melbourne City elopement filmed by the best wedding videographers in town, check out Bottlebrush Films as they’re doing filming for overseas guests and relatives who can’t make it.